MORGANTOWN W.Va. – West Virginia University researchers have discovered that a cicada fungus called, Massopora, contains chemicals similar to those found in hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Cicadas first encountered this fungus underground where they spent 13 to 17 years before emerging to the surface as adults.
The fungus causes cicadas to lose their limbs and have eccentric behavior. They are said to continue to roam around freely as if nothing is wrong, infecting other cicadas with the disease.
They are noted as being zombie-like, in the sense that the fungus controls their bodies.
Researchers say there is little possibility of getting “high” from the psychedelic chemicals found in the infected cicadas.
“If I consume one of these fungus infested cicadas, Will I trip? Will I get sick? The doseage is pretty low. I mean, you think about how much of a dosage it takes to impact a human for hallucinogenic mushrooms, the dosage is way lower in these cicadas because they are much smaller,” said Matt Kasson, Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology in Division of Plant and Soil Sciences at West Virginia University.
The research was done on cicadas collected from Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
These psychoactive compounds were just two of less than 1,000 compounds found in these cicadas.
Kasson said the compounds are important to the pharmaceutical industry, and in medicine.
“Right now, we have some evidence that supports that these pathways maybe that make these compounds, are novel. If that’s the case, there could be other intermediate compounds that have pharmaceutical utility. So it’s possible that understanding these interactions with insects, actually will lead to discovery with regard to pharmaceuticals,” said Kasson.